Beginning to flip learning

I am SO lucky! I’m at a Distance Education school where, flipped learning is pretty much the norm. However, until recently students have been asked to read long amounts of text in science.


This is no more as far as I’m concerned.

Yesterday, the day that changed my educational future, I discovered an invaluable web tool called Video Scribe. And began making awesome looking videos instantly.


Taking advice from the greats of video lessons I made sure that it was:

  • less than 5 minutes long
  • catchy and relevant to my students
  • animated!
  • focused on lower order thinking skills (knowledge and understanding).

Enjoy the first video I produced and I will be making all my video lessons available on my website under “For Teachers“.


Stuck what to say about the Draft Earth and Environmental Science Syllabus for NSW? – here are my views

If you care about the future of English, science, mathematics or history education in NSW, you’ll make your views heard. Here is where you can do that before August 31.

Read more for selected comments I made on the Draft HSC Earth Syllabus for NSW. *Caution, emotive language used.

Continue reading

BOSTES tips on assessment tasks

Notes I took at the Riverina Science Leadership conference regarding HSC assessment tasks as presented by the BOSTES Assessment guru

  • Students cannot get N-awarded from a course for simply not attending. As a teacher, you need to demonstrate that by not attending classes, the student is not meeting course outcomes. If they are self-sufficiently studying and submitting assessment tasks then they are meeting course requirements.
  • When a student requires an estimate as they have been unable to complete an assessment task, it is not valid to give an estimate based on other assessments that demonstrate different skills.
  • If you know a students needs a provision, you must give it as soon as you know. This may be before it gets approved by BOSTES
  • When considering modifications,think about what it is you are trying to assess and then what provisions need to be provided in order for that student to achieve the same outcome. For example, if a student was colour blind, and finding out when a colour change was occuring was essential to the assessment, you could tell them when the colour change happened, by saying now the colour has changed. Or by providing appropriate labels.
  • When planning an assessment task, think about what it is you are trying to assess and consider if you could do this in a different way.
  • Whatever you do in terms of modification, you cannot change the rigour of the task. You can’t “make it easier”. That’s not the point of modification/ reasonable adjustments.

Top HSC Exam tips from Dr. Stephen Fogwill at UTS

These are Dr. Fogwill’s top tips. He’s been an advisor to writing HSC Physics papers as well as a senior marker for many years.

Plus an all round lovely guy, willing to share his expertise with people.

  • all science students are expected to know what the gradient of a line means
  • students tended to draw trend lines incorrectly
  • students need to be prepared to answer questions on all parts of the syllabus, including the contextual outlines
  • the big mark questions are the ones that make the most difference, students need to practice how to do them
  • exam strategy: first look through and find pictures, then read through 7 mark questions, then read through the options. Finally go back and answer the multiple choice questions. It’s good to have a strategy
  • draw diagrams where possible
  • check the batteries of your calculators
  • where the paper says “do not write”, definitely do not write in that section – it will not be marked
  • in Physics and Earth, students should use the formula sheet and data sheet as a summary. Prepare your notes around it so that when you look at it in the exam it actually has more meaning because you’ve associated various sections of the course with the data provided to you
  • when considering safety in a scientific investigation make sure you look at safety specific to that investigation rather than simply wear safety glasses and have covered shoes
  • for each mandatory prac students should be able to do “VARS” which is validity, accuracy, reliability and safety as well as being able to describe the prac and general trends that were observed
  • teachers job to train students to do really good brief summary notes
  • when finished writing an answer go back and check that you’ve answered each part of the question
  • his website is



Its STEM not STEAM. Here’s why.



The reason STEM is such a big focus/ push/ buzz word right now, is not because other areas of education are less important. It has nothing to do with that.
It has everything to do with the fact that future generations have to deal with huge, global problems, that they need STEM skills to do.
As an aside, here they are* :
– Antibiotic resistance
– Climate change
– New energy sources
– Over pollution of the world
– Draughts and limited fresh water
– Over population
Instead, STEM has to do with the fact that students doing engineering courses at university are declining. These are our real world problem solvers and we are producing less of them. This may worry you. Rightly so.
STEM doesn’t mean arts and creativity is not important. On the contrary, any scientist or engineer knows that innovation requires creativity. It does mean however, that we are not talking about literary creativity here, or creativity in the arts. There are different kinds of creativity. In STEM we ask students to solve a problem. There is an absolute need for what they are to construct.
If we start using STEAM. Then why not add languages to it too? We know that speaking two languages changes the brain to be able to better adapt to problem solving and increases working memory. It also decreased problems in later life. Not to mention bilinguals have excellent cultural awareness. So we should then make it STLEAM.
Wait a second? Are we forgetting health? We cannot forget health because without proper sleep, food, exercise and mental wellbeing, we cannot call ourselves healthy human beings.
So it now has to become STLEAMP.

Can you see that it is getting a bit out of hand?
Let’s just agree that right now, there is a need for STEM students.
But we as teachers are educating the child as a whole. And we are not discounting the importance of other areas of education.

* Thank you for indulging my inbuilt scientific need to write lists

What makes a good teacher?

From my observations + research

  • having routines
  • being firm and able to control a classroom
  • joking with students/ having a sense of humour
  • knowing what’s going on in the class
  • caring about the education of students
  • not embarrassing students in front of peers
  • having clear expectations of behaviour
  • being clear with your instructions
  • being a story teller + making it relevant
  • builds on knowledge obtained previously

Week 1 already gone.

I’ve just finished a really fast paced week on my first professional experience. I’ve started a “get to know you” profile that the majority of students have responded well to. It’s just a really quick and easy way for me to find out a little bit about my students and it makes it much easier to remember their names which, if our education at uni is anything to go by is one of the most important things you can do in terms of behaviour management.

What else am I learning? How to use an interactive white board. That schools don’t really focus on contexts as they told us to in method (although I’m sure that this would still be vastly more enriching way of learning curricula – see my future post on Big History).

I’m learning that a lot of students actually live at the boarding school and that the majority of them have parents who live in rural areas. The school has a really great culture. There’s A LOT going on.

I’ve come to really appreciate the time my teachers put in to see my during recess and lunch as a student. I’ve come to also realise in a shocking way the importance of planning ahead. Last week I was kind of thrown in the deep end. But as I sit here today on Sunday evening, having lessons up until Thursday planned and ready to go I feel pretty good about myself. Certainly much more in control than last week.

I’m learning that teachers keep on learning for the rest of their lives and that if you’re passionate about it – there’s always someone to talk to. The science staff at this school are so great. They really are very kind and supportive and genuinely seem to care about me. Which is really nice.

I’m learning how important it is to BE VERY VERY CLEAR with students. Every activity can be interpreted in a different kind of way unless you plan for it. Even having extra boxes that needn’t be there confuses students so get on top of that.

I think the students are really liking the mini whiteboards idea that I’ve introduced them too. It gives a chance for even the most shy students to participate and I really like that because sometimes classroom can be dominated by few students and you never really get to know what everyone is thinking. There is a problem with this though because the students still tend to copy each others’ answers. But I mean at least they’re writing it down and thinking about the questions right?

I’m also really learning the features of great teachers which I’ll put in a separate post. Really exciting stuff.

First Week of teacher school

The 3rd of March marked by official beginning as a trainee teacher. While I’d been teaching at university all of 2013 casually around 20 hours per week, this was officially training to start off my career as a high school science teacher. I was excited to say the least.

I met some amazingly enthusiastic people also doing the MTeach/ GDE course at UNSW. Everyone came from such different backgrounds. Unlike my undergrad degree, there were a lot more mature age students which I was really happy about – we can learn so much from them! They came from backgrounds of clinical research to music composition, all looking for a change in career to teaching. I wonder why? It’s great don’t get me wrong – but why now? Did they want to rustle up some experience before teaching? Did they want to fulfil some life long goals they had set up for themselves? Or is it that teaching would fit into their lives better now? I don’t know really but whatever it is the students of those teachers are going to have an experience that I myself cannot share. It’s different to have dabbled in your field and then go teach it. I think it gives a deeper quality of learning – if used correctly that is. My high school chemistry teacher, while being a chemist for a while before becoming a teacher was totally out of sync with how education had developed. So hoping these guys in my course aren’t on that page.

I’m also living the teaching. Yesterday in a lecture they talked about teaching being a vocation not a job and I already totally agree with that. It’s encompassing my life. I have been thinking and talking about teaching all week.

Everyone is also very opinionated and I love that! Yesterday in my favourite course the Science Method course taught by Judith Morgan of Caringbah High School, she asked us if science required experimentation. While I originally thought (in my biology way of thinking) yes of course! That’s what distinguishes science from other disciplines. We later got into a discussion where another student said, quite rightly, that epidemiology exists through observation not methodical experimentation – it is seeking to observe trends in populations because it is illegal to experiment on humans. On the other hand, archaeological discoveries in palaeontology cannot be reproduced, there is no such experimentation that goes on. So perhaps we should say methodical observation is a type of experimentation. But then what about thought experiments? Where do they come into it? It’s all very exciting talking to these people.

Another thing that stuck with me last week was about motivation. Basically this is the scenario: people were given the task of completing puzzles. In one group they would get a monetary prize for every puzzle they completed and in the other group they were told to complete as many as they could. Both groups were given 30 mins to complete the task. After the half hour, the examiner returned and said Okay now I’m going to go get the results of the experiment and you can be on your way. He then left for 10 mins or so. In that 10 minutes the group which had the monetary incentive DID NOT complete any more puzzles. They just sat around. However, the group without the monetary incentive DID complete more puzzles. What’s really interesting about this is that giving someone an incentive for doing something other than the “be the best you you can be” might actually undermine their own motivation. Why didn’t they complete more puzzles? Well as I was thinking about this I thought perhaps they thought that it might be cheating if they completed more puzzles when they weren’t supposed to. A way around this would have been to count the puzzles before the examiner went to get the results, and then if they still didn’t do any more puzzles after that I would be satisfied with the validity of these results. On the other hand, even if the examiner didn’t count the results before leaving, the person being tested could’ve still done more puzzles and just told the examiner to exclude those in the final count to be fair. I don’t really know because I didn’t read the article yet. When I do I’ll edit this post. Got me thinking though.